Nayptitaw, Myanmar

30 April 2012

Secretary-General's remarks at Census Event

It is a great honour to take part in this important ceremony.

At a time of historic change for Myanmar, a time when new prospects exist for ensuring the well-being of all the country’s people, it is essential to know just who those people are -- how many, what age, what background, their economic status, their family size and their location.  That is what the next census can and must achieve. 

A census is a crucially important undertaking.

The vast amount of information it can capture gives policy-makers the information they need for planning and delivering services, in particular to the poorest and most vulnerable.

It is also tool for mutual understanding in a country of remarkable ethnic, linguistic and religious diversity.

A census is thus a rewarding endeavor.  But it is also a challenging one, particularly in remote rural areas.

Last November, on the margins of the ASEAN-UN summit in Bali, President Thein Sein informed me that in 2014, Myanmar would conduct its first census in almost 30 years.  He asked for United Nations’ assistance in that effort, knowing of the great expertise of the UN Statistical Division and of the UN Population Fund, a longstanding partner.

I replied that we would do everything we could to help make the census a success.

That is the essence of the agreement we sign today between the Government of Myanmar and the United Nations.

Already, technical teams have been hard at work, discussing possible assistance and funding needs.

One of the most important challenges will be to train people to implement a census, since the current staff of the Ministry of Immigration and Population has no direct experience with the organization and conduct of a census that adheres to global standards. 

Another challenge will be to gain access to the whole territory of Myanmar.   I hope that current and future cease-fires will make this possible.  The involvement of minorities and civil society will be crucial for this to be possible.

Myanmar does have experience to build on, including censuses in 1973 and 1983.

I am very encouraged about the Government’s strong commitment to the project. I urge donors to provide resources that can supplement those that the Government will be providing.

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

The Census is a big operation that needs strong national support.

The international community also has an important role to play, as evidenced by the President’s request for UN participation.

I therefore welcome the signing of these letters today and offer my assurance that all relevant parts of the UN system will do their utmost to help the people of Myanmar reap the dividends of this important exercise.

Myanmar is taking on great change on a great many fronts, and the United Nations will stand with you at this time of transition to a better future for all the country’s people.

Thank you.